Magnanimity

Monday, 18 September 2017

Back in January, I briefly talked a bit about the need for more sincerity in the world. I still think that post holds true, but, as in most things, could be expanded upon after more reflection. I’ve had chats with friends about call-out culture & seen eye-rolling amounts of outraged headlines & no end of online chatter about how some thing or some one didn’t do some thing well enough to please some one. As cliche as it is: perfect remains the enemy of good; and those who expect their definition of perfection to be met will forever be outraged by the fallibility of every one.

What I almost never see is magnanimity – I don’t see acknowledgement and praise of effort, or understanding & encouragement when someone is trying but makes mistakes. I understand that it may be hard to be magnanimous when most people are pushing their own agenda (either disingenuously or sincerely), but I fail to see how the excoriation of imperfection & fallibility is useful for anything other than vainglorious virtue-signaling & self-aggrandizement. It’s a neat little tautological flip to support the type of pride that was once considered sinful back when people believed in sin. Without a sense of humility, it’s nigh impossible to be magnanimous. The world would certainly be a bit better off if we practiced it from time to time.

People need to chill.

The Conversion of Saint Paul, Caravaggio
The Conversion of Saint Paul, Caravaggio

Sincerity

Sunday, 22 January 2017

In the apotheosis of postmodernity that we are currently subjected to sincerity is hard to find. The alt-fact (propaganda) & alt-right (white supremacist) are unscrupulously disingenuous at dissembling. The social justice left has balkanized due to self-inflicted “No True Scotsman”-ship. Hipster irony in the early aughts was at least performative – a joke that everyone was in on; and even if you didn’t think it was funny, you at least knew it was a joke. Now, just about everybody is a revanchist.

The tools used to make nothing mean anything, and anything mean nothing have been so refined that 140 characters can take 10,000 of analysis to unpack. Speed, volume, and anonymity create so much noise that there might as well be no signal.

I used to think hipster irony was the problem & that sincerity was the answer. I was wrong. Postmodernity is the problem.

I still think sincerity is the answer.

My General Political Philosophy

Thursday, 8 December 2016

Ethics

In general I support candidates, legislation, and civil behaviors that most closely meet my ethical and moral standards. The discernment process becomes progressively more refined as necessary, which, it turns out, isn’t very often. I was raised Catholic, so my moral and ethical foundations are Judeo-Christian. Core tenets:

…Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these.
Mark 12:31

But he, willing to justify himself, said unto Jesus, And who is my neighbour? And Jesus answering said, A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, which stripped him of his raiment, and wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead. And by chance there came down a certain priest that way: and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. And likewise a Levite, when he was at the place, came and looked on him, and passed by on the other side. But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was: and when he saw him, he had compassion on him, And went to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine, and set him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him. And on the morrow when he departed, he took out two pence, and gave them to the host, and said unto him, Take care of him; and whatsoever thou spendest more, when I come again, I will repay thee. Which now of these three, thinkest thou, was neighbour unto him that fell among the thieves? And he said, He that shewed mercy on him. Then said Jesus unto him, Go, and do thou likewise.
Luke 10:29-37

And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.
Matthew 25:40

Reiterating: Meet those standards and get my support. Oppose them and I’m an opponent.

Reason

I support candidates and legislation that make the correct moral, ethical, and reasonable decisions, even when they are difficult. Policies and positions based on science, empirical research, and long-term viability get my support. I don’t believe in quick fixes. Government works best when it is evolutionary – a series of very gradual changes we can believe in. If a legislator or piece of legislation does not meet or impedes the progress of correct moral, ethical, or rational decision-making, I oppose.

Anti-incumbency, Complacency, & Overton Windows

Barring disqualifying ideological differences, if a candidate or party has been in office or in power in an area for a long time, I’m probably going to vote for their opponent, especially in a primary. I blame this on 30 years of hearing the same names on the nightly news. A Bush has been either President or Vice-President for 20 years of my life. Clintons have been in the spotlight for the same amount of time. The same names have been around in Cleveland for as long as I’ve been here. I’m not into dynasties – familial, ethnic, or otherwise. I thought it was hilarious that the best the Ohio Democratic Party could come up with for Senate this year was Ted Strickland, & the best they could do for the last Governor run was Ed Fitzgerald. Reheated, thin gruel. Yum! ← This, by the way, is how I feel about most major candidates that run for office.

I also think that the longer a candidate is incumbent – the longer they have to become comfortable, complacent, and likely to ignore their constituency. You keep a knife sharp by honing it. The same principle applies to people. Comfortable people are dull. I think every incumbent should be challenged in a primary when up for re-election. No free passes.

I also vote to shift the Overton Window closer toward the Judeo-Christian ethic illustrated above.

Hoosier Libertarianism

I don’t want legislators or legislation to dictate to me or others how and in what way our private, personal business is handled. All y’all deserve the protections enumerated in our constitution. And by all y’all I mean all y’all.

Whatever Remains

I realize that this description of my political philosophy isn’t nailed down to the last shingle, but I don’t think it needs to be. That orthodoxy results in the political climate we currently loathe. When there were grey areas to be had in a politics, I welcomed the chance to discuss them, learn, and possibly have my mind changed. Those days seem to be long past, and not returning any time soon.

Saccades

Thursday, 26 November 2015

Today, while reading Tom Vanderbilt’s The Pleasure and Pain of Speed from Nautilus’ Issue 9, I learned about the saccade. This is the term for the rapid movement of eyes between fixation on different objects. Our visual perception is basically turned off during this time – which, apparently, makes up about 60 – 90 minutes of our day.

This ties in nicely to an anthropological theory I have that I wrote about over a decade ago: The Space Between Thoughts. I think we have an instinctual awareness that our perceptions are incomplete – and then we come up with all kinds of stories and theories for what happens in those gaps, and where our perception fails. What happens during a saccade. The saccade is where the coin reappears – where the magic happens.

It’s nice to finally have a word for it.

Historical Footnotes

Wednesday, 2 September 2015

I posit that the event horizon of “historically important” as a quality of information is the point at which the dataset disappears from living memory. The magnitude of certain events ensures that they will be recorded for posterity, but even then, the reasons behind that recording fade as the people who experienced it die. I might be using the wrong terms here. Maybe it’s not history I’m talking about, but anthropology. History is “these are the things that happened”; anthropology is “these are the ways people acted.”

Living as I do, in a society where many people are arguably obsessed with recording and archiving every detail of their lives, I wonder what methods future historians/anthropologists will use to sift wheat from chaff – especially when, as this post is evidence for, so much of what is shared and saved is chaff.

That’s long-term historicity. If history is still being recorded 5,000 years from now, this whole epoch will likely be reduced to a one-liner: “An age of technological growth so rapid it’s effects threatened to destroy civilization.”

Specific to this is the rise of the automated autobiography. People have been posting things online so long now that there are services to show us and let us share what we were doing to the day, 1, 3, 5, or 10 years ago. Is there a broader desire to consume these mini-histories, or do they just exist to serve our need to feel more important than we are? It doesn’t have to be either/or. My bet is that it’s an admixture of onanism, exhibitionism, and voyeurism.

Signal to noise depends on your ears.

Trash is treasure.

Lauds

Sunday, 26 April 2015

This morning, my dog and I caught God
trying to sneak through the city like
a man skipping Mass in search of a drink.

He still filled the sky and his steps were
like the echoes of an empty hallway.
My dog just wagged her tail but I

shouted at him:
I SEE YOU, OLD AFRAID MAN!
He didn’t turn, just created a dirty rabbit

which he threw over-shoulder at my dog. 
I don’t know if my dog or the rabbit was
more surprised. The rabbit dissipated 

using natural rabbit-magic, and when I
looked, so had God. The city whispered
an antiphon: Kýrie, eléison.

On Aging

Sunday, 1 March 2015

Aging is the process of learning to appreciate greyness. It is only a gentle irony that our hair takes on that hue. The things children appreciate and learn about are defined by clarity: a color, a taste, an emotion. As time passes and experiences pile up, red becomes oxblood, sweetness and emotions take shape by their intensity.

My nearly-seven son cares not for fiction. He wants facts in books. The clarity has grown in scope, but not in complexity. This will continue until at some point he will become old.

That’s where I sit: on old side of things. You become old when your experiential knowledge gives you the ability to discern facts from things that purport to be facts; and you apprehend or comprehend that the act of knowing is equal parts belief and agenda.

So I no longer demand clarity. My scope has narrowed. I know that no matter how good that beer might be, I’ll enjoy bourbon more. I know that there is no point trying to convince people who hold fundamental positions on a topic to change their minds. I have reached the limits of clarity and move cautiously in the vast mist that exists between facts, and between knowledge and reality. Red is a gradient, flavors are combined, emotions are deep and savored. I understand how it is frustrating to the not-old to see what appears to be a lack of concern, or a concern with the unsubstantial. The frequency of the old is longer, both experientially and relativistically.

To be old is to be a ship happily lost in fog, savoring the subtlety of the phantoms that flit about the corners of our eyes, that, when we were young, we once mistook for friends.